Making the decision to go on SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) is a huge step toward resolving depression and anxiety––Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro and many other medications fit into this category of antidepressants. However, studies have concluded that anywhere from 30%-70% of people with these prescriptions have noted a significantly lower libido as a major side effect. As the serotonin from the meds is released into our systems, it represses the dopamine neurotransmitters that facilitate sexual arousal (basically the hormones that get us all riled up). This manifests itself by preventing natural lubrication and in some cases delayed or unachievable orgasm. It is the individual’s choice whether or not it’s worth sacrificing the ease in their sex life to improve other areas of their health, but in the meantime let’s talk about how we can circumvent this epidemic.
Adjust your coping mechanisms
If you are a person who absolutely cannot tolerate the hurdles that come with a lowered sex drive might want to speak to your healthcare provider about the implications of lowering your dosage or switching medications entirely. Another category of antidepressants called SNRIs (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) is reportedly less likely to have side effects that limit sexual ability. If you take medication as means of treating your depression and/or anxiety because it takes little thought and commitment, you should consider scouting out a therapist. Many have reported that lowering their dosage and going to talk therapy gives them the right combo of guidance and support so that they can manage their lives and reclaim their sexuality.
Reevaluate what turns you on
So many women are accustomed to catering to their sexual partners, (especially in relationships), so when your facilities are running at 100%, it’s easy to forget the importance of foreplay and sex that really, truly, gets us off. Porn is always an easy way to test the waters. Masturbating to new fantasies and creating thrilling scenarios in your head may be just the thing to get your body going. Because of the stigma surrounding pleasure that does not revolve around cis white men, a great way to check-in with yourself is find porn that is pleasurable to you. If you are a woman who enjoys vagina-centric porn and a strong plot, check out sex-positive feminist porn makers Erika Lust and Four Chambers.
Lube, lube, lube
Though this should be a no-brainer it is especially important for those of us whose bodies are not as responsive to foreplay to properly lubricate. For people with vaginas chafing and other sexual discomforts can be remedied effortlessly with a lil’ lube. Unbound has a variety of different lubricants for basic utility or if you want to test out the sensations of the Clitoral Jolt Gel or O.M.G-Spot Stim Serum. If you already have regular ol’ lube in your arsenal, it’s definitely worth trying something with a little more chutzpah. When your body literally can’t self-lubricate, it is a must to use lube for safe, comfortable sex.
Plan, plan, plan
Planned sex may seem unsexy, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Some find success in taking their meds after the time they regularly “do the deed” because the medication will be at its lowest amount in your blood levels right before the next dose––strike while the iron’s hot! Try a little light sexting throughout the day so that you’re both excited about what’s to come. This will also open the conversation up between you and your partner(s) about what gets you both off. It would also be a perfect time to slip in all of those fantasies you’ve been thinking about during your solo sexy time. If there’s kink involved, it will give you ample time to daydream until you can’t take it any longer. That in itself is hot, hot, hot!
Lastly, but most importantly, be patient with yourself and engage with a partner(s) who are respectful of your condition.
It’s easy to get in your head too much when you don’t feel like you can perform to your full sexual capacity. If you are coupled, make sure that your partner is supportive of your mental health journey, and if they’re not, the problem is them not you. If you’re single, the idea of casual sex may seem like more of a chore than before, but a simple request for more foreplay can save you from stigma revolving around mental health if you’re afraid to disclose that information. Recognizing that this side effect is widespread for SSRI users and being able to remind yourself that you are on meds to improve your quality of life is so important. Remember that you are not alone and you got this.
Shannon Edwards is a writer, cyber activist and intersectional feminist based out of Portland, OR. Her work can be found on her website.